This is a lighthearted imitation of the more serious poem by the South African Catholic poet, Roy Campbell, “The Making of a Poet.” There is something virile and muscular in Campbell’s poetry that makes it very attractive (which was not at all captured in my imitation, to be sure!). Aside from being a great poet in his own right, Campbell is also known as an excellent translator of the poetry of Saint John of the Cross into English. At the end of the poem are some notes for those who might miss certain references in the second stanza.
In every herd there is some common vice,
Which, slothfully, both bull and cow commit,
For which God’s justice made me not so nice,
Yet mercifully, I goad them round the pit.
A Socrates, a Jeremy am I
And like them most unwelcome to my herd.
I am poor Io’s torturing gadfly,
A menace of a smallness most absurd.
It matters not how hearty nor how hale
I am, nor that from mite I can defend.
Alas, one day some well directed tail
Will bring my stinging tenure to its end.
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent (March 30), 2017
Socrates called himself a gadfly because he stung the consciences of the Athenians. Jeremy is a common truncation of the name Jeremias (or Jeremiah), the major Prophet who was killed by his own people. For the Greek classical story of Io, go here.